The Prince of Wales has delivered a passionate speech in praise of the bonds of friendship, culture and shared values he believes will endure between the UK and Germany in the aftermath of Brexit.
Charles’ comments, delivered during a Berlin ceremony marking Germany’s National Day of Mourning, were his most direct reference to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) to date.
The heir to the throne’s speech was made as the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator said a trade deal with the EU may not succeed, but he is still hopeful of a resolution as the talks go down to the wire this week.
Speaking in Germany’s parliament or Bundestag, the prince said politicians and officials may be negotiating the “shape” of Britain and Germany’s relationship but its “essence” was down to the “connection” between its people.
Charles echoed the famous words of poet John Donne when he said “no country is really an island” and told guests the destinies of the UK and Germany would remain “interdependent” to a “considerable degree”.
During the poignant national event – when all victims of war and tyranny are remembered – the prince told those gathered, including Germany’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier: “The United Kingdom has chosen a future outside the European Union, and the relationship between our countries is evolving once again.
“Its shape is a matter negotiated between our governments and its essence is defined by the enduring connections between our people.
“It is, therefore, my heartfelt belief that the fundamental bond between us will remain strong: we will always be friends, partners and allies.
“As our countries begin this new chapter in our long history, let us reaffirm our bond for the years ahead.”
Charles had begun his speech by highlighting how he first visited Germany’s capital nearly 50 years ago and Berlin was a city “that embodies so much of the history of our continent, and all that we have been through”.
He added: “Berlin reminds us that the fortunes of all Europeans have been dependent on one another for centuries.
“The relationships we enjoy today are built on foundations dug deep in the bedrock of our common experience, anchored by bonds running North and South, East and West, through our diverse communities and across our borders.”
Charles, who delivered large parts of his speech in German, said: “The English poet John Donne famously wrote that ‘no man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’.
“One might equally submit that no country is really an island either, other than in the wholly literal sense. Our histories bind us tightly together and our destinies, although each our own to forge, are interdependent to a considerable degree.”
Coronavirus restrictions meant a small number of dignitaries, including the Duchess of Cornwall, were invited and all sat wearing masks and socially distanced in the parliamentary chamber.
Teenager Jasleen Singh, from Bristol, who took part in a German War Graves Commission’s Peace Line project which encourages young people to remember and commemorate, spoke during the ceremony, which was broadcast on German television.
She described how she went on a battlefield tour of France and Belgium with her school Bristol Grammar and visited the grave of a soldier Stanley Booker who attended her school.
She said: “We laid a wreath for him next to his grave and it was at that moment that it really hit me that each stone represented the flesh and blood of not just a soldier – but also a father, a brother, a husband and a son.”
Earlier Charles and Camilla paid their respects at Berlin’s Neue Wache Central Memorial, dedicated to victims of war and tyranny.
With the German president standing nearby, the prince touched a wreath, laid on his behalf, which had the message: “In everlasting remembrance of all victims of conflict and tyranny. Charles.”
A short while later, Camilla laid a posy featuring rosemary for remembrance and olive, white daisies and nerines for peace.
The couple began their day with a 40-minute meeting with the president and his wife at their official residence.